September 2016


UHTS collected works

The Past is Not a Good Idea...
Peter Butler
United Kingdom

...I realize this after I get off the train and head up a street in suburban London which I last saw 60 years ago. It starts with a pedestrian crossing and a set of traffic lights, unnecessary in those quieter times. It continues with a row of chalet-style 1930s houses, which have since grown extensions and driveways with two cars—few cars existed then—past the home of childhood sweetheart, Annie, who dropped me, to the house where I grew up during the wartime emergency, to find its garden has disappeared in favor of a concrete patio, with scarcely a flower in sight.

after the bomb
a farthing of shrapnel
my lucky charm

Next door, Doreen lived with her mother. Doreen was born with a crooked jaw and port wine stain across her face, which meant she was shunned, occasionally mocked. Her father left, embarked on a new relationship. At a time of austerity and rationing I offered her sweets when I could, never discussed her disfigurement, and gave her the only kiss she probably got in her life from a boy.

I head for the shopping parade round the corner where I stole, and later sold, a bicycle, remembering none of the shops that now exist. It is at this point I see an elderly lady, bent and shuffling with a stick, her face disfigured with a port wine stain, and realize all this thinking about the past is not a good idea.

in the shop window
seeing myself
an elderly stranger

Note: [‘Farthing’, the smallest form currency in wartime Britain]